The Top 4 Fall Rafting Trips Utah’s Magical Deserts Have To Offer

By Kim Cassels   •   June 29, 2021

The Top 4 Fall Rafting Trips Utah’s Magical Deserts have to Offer

Cataract Canyon Scenery - Utah - Mild to Wild Rafting

Have you been thinking about fall rafting trips in Utah? Of course you have, because you’re here, right now, on this blog about fall rafting trips in Utah. And also because you’re very smart, since autumn is an amazing time to take a river trip in the Beehive State for multiple reasons.

To start, Utah’s sadistic heat wears off in September and enters the obliging 70’s and 80’s through October. But while the air is cooler, the water stays surprisingly warm. Meanwhile, the kids have gone back to school which means plenty of other peoples’ summer vacations are over. That leaves you and your posse with the prospect of exploring a canyon all to yourselves.

Plus, depending on the river section you choose, there’s still plenty of ferocious rapids for the running. Oh yeah, and the fall colors glimmer in the glory of golden cottonwoods baby! Check out this list of our top picks for fall rafting trips in Utah, and then get to planning before you’re pulling the skis out of the closet.

Westwater Canyon – Colorado River

Westwater Canyon - Mild to Wild
Credit American Whitewater

Westwater Canyon is a scrumptiously frothy stretch of the Colorado River, even when the leaves start to get their glow on. Ranked the #1 Short Whitewater Trip by National Geographic, you can get plenty of fat splashes in this charcoal colored canyon in less time than on other sudsy sections of Utah. 

Where is Westwater Canyon? Between Grand Junction a Moab in a gorgeous granite chasm. 

Raft up until: Late October 

Adventure Level: Intermediate to High, Class III – IV rapids. Most people choose to paddle on this trip, but if you want to just sit back and hold on through the big hits, you can usually request an oar guide. 

Length of trips available: 1-3 Days 

Great for: Jubilant adventurers and giddy paddlers short on time.

Special attributes in fall: Running Westwater in the fall still makes for an exciting ride even when the water levels are low. Its impressive collection of boulders combined with a steady descent ensures the waters will still be a’churnin when you’re here as the seasons change. Be ready for big hits and lots of technical maneuvers in between your sips of pumpkin spice. 

Castle Valley – Colorado River 

Evening Scenery With Rafts - Castle Valley - Mild to Wild Rafting

This decorative stretch of the Colorado River meanders through one of the most scenic areas for fall rafting trips in Utah. The wide open scenery of Castle Valley comes in soaring spires, sculpted monuments and rosy bluffs. It’s the go-to backdrop of any western storyline— including those of starry eyed rafters ready for a float trip doused in tranquility. 

Where is Castle Valley? In a northeastern canyon from Moab 

Raft up until: Mid October 

Adventure Level: Mild, Mostly flat water with some Class II Rapids 

Length of trips available: 2 Hours – 3 Days 

Great for: Families with young children, groups looking to relax, and photography junkies.

Special attributes in fall: Castle Valley comes loaded with big beautiful cottonwoods, and autumn is their time to steal the show from other foliage. In fall, this already colorful valley becomes a bit of a living, breathing Bob Ross creation. 

Check out Castle Valley trips for fall here!

Cataract Canyon – Colorado River 

Cataract Canyon Rafting - Utah - Mild to Wild Rafting

Cataract Canyon is the arena for Utah’s most righteous whitewater from spring to fall. This remote section of massive waves is highly sought after, and is the perfect fall rafting trip in Utah for those in need of a cocktail of white knuckle thrills and glossy scenic stretches. 

Where is Cataract Canyon? Canyonlands National Park 

Raft up until: Mid October 

Adventure Level: Intermediate – High, Class III – IV rapids. 

Length of trips available: 2-6 days 

Great for: Whitewater schmoozers, history addicts, and seekers of classy bucket list excursions.

Special attributes in fall: During lower water levels, the canyon’s already beautiful beaches become even bigger, letting you camp right next to the rapids if you so wish. As for the rapids, many of the big drops that require a motor rig at high water in spring can be run in oar boats, which make the ride just as thrilling in Cat’s class III holes. 

Check out Cataract Canyon trips for fall here!

Desolation Canyon – Green River 

Desolation and Gray Canyons Whitewater Rafting Trip – Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours

There are few Utah rafting trips as beloved as Desolation Canyon, and for good reason. This gargantuan river valley heaves in the charm with its massive beaches, ever growing escarpments, and rich historical significance. River enthusaists raft Desolation Canyon year round, so autumn is considered prime time as much as any other season here! 

Where is Desolation Canyon: Eastern Utah, in the largest wilderness research area of the contiguous United States. Booyah.  

Raft up until: Late September

Adventure Level: Mild – Intermediate, Class II and III rapids. 

Length of trips available: 4-6 Days 

Great for: Just about anyone and everyone in need of a solid, life changing river trip.

Special attributes in fall: Desolation Canyon is— ironically due to its misleading name— one of the best places to see wildlife. In fall, Big Horned sheep and pronghorns tend to pay the banks frequent visits as they clack racks for mating rights. Bears are also prevalent in this canyon, and fall means they’re getting their glutton on for hibernation. 

Check out Desolation Canyon trips for fall here!


More Reading 

What You’ll Learn About Yourself When You Take a Multi-Day Rafting Trip

Why The Green River is One of the Best for Rafting Trips

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